European Development Days - Closing Panel: From Commitment to Action, June 2016

EDD16 - Replay - Closing Panel: from commitment to action

On 15 - 16 June 2016, Winnie Byanyima attended the "European Development Days" (EDDs) in Brussels. 

Organised by the European Commission, the European Development Days bring the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. For its tenth anniversary, the EDD 2016 focused on the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

Winnie Byanyima joined colleagues from our EU office to represent Oxfam in bilateral meetings, high-level engagements and media interviews.

Ms Byanyima's spoke at the high-level closing panel of the EDDs, titled "From Commitment to Action", joining Faustin-Archange Touadéra (President, Central African Republic), Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe (Prime Minister, Ethiopia), Alaa Murabit (The Voice of Libyan Women and UN Sustainable Development Goals Global Advocate) and Neven Mimica (EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development), in a discussion chaired by David Nabarro (UN Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development).

More information about the event available here:



I came here with my colleagues from Oxfam to talk to European leaders and the leaders from the developing countries about moving the Sustainable Development Goals agenda forward. 

Six months ago when they were adopted – Oxfam was jubilant but also cautious.

We see that progress towards the SDGs must be tangible, disruptive and very political. Sitting here in this conversation and listening to the leaders both from Europe and from the developing countries, I heard a clear message from developing countries:

We own this agenda, it is our agenda, and one critical issue for us is raising the resources to finance the Sustainable Development Goals. And that’s what I want to talk about first:

Too much money is sitting in the wrong places to be useful for the Sustainable Development Goals. Nearly one third of the wealth of Africans is sitting somewhere offshore, because we have a global tax system that has gaping loopholes, allowing resources to flow out untaxed. 

We will not be able to achieve the SDG’s without being able to collect that revenue, tax it, and use it to finance the SDG’s. 

So my message to the European leaders is that you were instrumental in crafting this agenda. We salute you. But you must now make the issue of global tax cooperation central to the SDG’s so that (developing) countries can raise the taxes that are due to them and move their own agenda forward.

Global tax cooperation is central to the achievement of the Goals and Europe must lead.

Secondly – for the developing countries leaders themselves – they too must move towards more progressive taxation.

They can’t go on taxing these poor women like those in my village who sell bananas, or the little boys who push wheelbarrows, instead of aiming for those who “make the money”. They must move to more progressive taxation and move away from the indirect taxation of consumables. 

But then: developing countries need not only to develop their own resources. They also still need aid, development assistance. 

We remain worried: we are seeing a purposing of development cooperation, assistance. Again I challenge Europe and the European leaders.

Development cooperation, assistance is primarily for eradicating poverty.

Now we hear that we must use it to leverage private sector’s investments. But the business people have always known how to find a good deal and put their money on it – why is it that now suddenly they need public money as well!

And if they do need public money, why not set the terms clearly – so we know if they are given public money from taxpayers we will know how it’ll come back. We are not clear about this diversion of development assistance towards leveraging private sector, as if they don’t know how to make a profit!

But it doesn’t stop there. Now it is being tied to migration control. 

That is disturbing for us. It is true that we have heard reassurances from conversations here, but we are not going away peacefully yet: we want Europe to give us an assurance that development cooperation, development assistance isn’t being used to outsource migration control to source and transit countries.

This would be wrong: a way of running away from human rights and putting money in the hands in the leaders and forcing developing countries to do the border control for Europe. That’s not right.

So we are saying: let that money remain for fighting poverty according to Busan principles of alignment with national priorities and alignment with the interests of the poor people.

So redefining development aid is an issue that is of concern to us, and an issue we came here openly to discuss with Europe – reminding Europe that you are the ones who were architects of international human rights law, refugee law, humanitarian law, you are the ones you helped make the SDG’s – you can’t walk away from them just because you have now a refugee problem.

This “problem” is not a big problem when you think about it. Lebanon – 25% of its population are Syrian refugees. Poor Lebanon is absorbing this crisis.

We have said to rich countries: take at least 10 percent of the refugees of those countries around Syria – that’s around 460,000 people. If you share the burden fairly between the rich countries, that’s so small. If there is fair burden sharing – this is not a crisis, it can be managed.

Europe: live up to your goals and responsibilities on human rights and stay where you have been leading on development and leading on human rights.

Lastly, we want to say again to developing country leaders: we salute you for owning the SDG’s. Putting women at the centre, it’s an imperative. We are not getting anywhere without empowering women and giving them their place of equality in this agenda.

Thank you.